A Modern Twist on Ancient Music
By Khalid Moss
Some folks think you need a bitchin’ rhythm section to make the music soar. They want to feel the deep thud of a bass, the bad-ass kick of the drum and the rhythmical shadings of a keyboard or guitar. Well, if that’s what floats your boat, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise upon hearing Genticorum, a Canada-based band that has neither traditional bass nor standard drums, but manages to create a wonderful matrix of sound.
As a presentation of the wildly-popular Cityfolk Celtic Series, Genticorum will perform live at Stivers School for the Arts on February 25 at 8p.m. The multi-instrumental trio brings a distinctive world-view to the way we normally navigate our musical cosmos.
Genticorum has become one of the most sought-after purveyors of Quebecois musical culture. That is, music rooted in French Canadian soil but steeped in traditional songs, Celtic and classical music with a fondness for foreign rhythms. Founded in 2000, the group consists of Pascal Gemme on fiddle, feet (yes, feet) and vocals, Alex de Grosbois-Garand who plays flute, bass and sings and Yann Faiquet on guitar, jaw harp and vocals. Now you might wonder, with this odd instrumental grouping, how to compute the music Genticorum produces, but the clan has taken its muse to more than 15 countries and won the Canadian Folk Music Award for its 2005 album Malins Plaisirs.
According to snippets from the press, Genticorum “weaves wooden flute, fiddle, acoustic guitar, jaw harp, bass, foot percussion and vocals producing a brilliant tapestry which gives them their unique sound.” It’s not Miles Davis, but Genticorum manages to get its point across.
Voted Canada’s “Best Folk Ensemble,” the triad has, over the years, firmly established itself on the international folk festival circuit.
At first listen, Genticorum sounds like a bluegrass-jug band on human growth hormones. But upon closer inspection, this is not just three French guys on an extended jam but a finely-honed unit with intricate fiddle and flute work.
“We play a mix of Celtic music and traditional music called Quebecois music,” said Mr. Faiquet from his home in Montreal, Canada. “It is fiddle-based music. We sing in French and tell stories between the songs.”
Faiquet said the group has maintained the same personnel since its beginning. He is the youngest member of the band by two years.
“Pascal is our percussionist,” said Faiquet. “He also doubles on the fiddle and does something unusual with his feet. He sits down when he is performing and uses his feet as percussion instruments. It substitutes for a drum. It’s very unique. Alex plays bass, flute and sings. We have been together for about eleven years, but we’ve known each other much longer.”
Although a lot of Genticorum’s material is executed in French, it has been warmly received by Anglo Saxon audiences.
“We play mostly to English speaking audiences,” explained Faiquet. “In between the songs, we tell little stories that put the French songs into context. So, even if you don’t understand the language, you are engaged by the stories surrounding them.”
This will be the group’s maiden voyage to the Miami Valley.
“We have never been to Dayton,” said Faiquet. “In fact, we’ve never been in Ohio. I hope our music is received well. We understand that Dayton is a hotbed for Celtic music and we hope to fit in nicely. After Dayton, we will probably return home and start working on some new material. We continue to develop our music which is ancient but also modern at the same time.”
Genticorum has given more than 700 concerts in 15 countries. Often mistaken for a much larger group, Genticorum’s stage presence and humor makes it a supreme crowd pleaser.
Genticorum performs a brand of Celtic music unique to Canadian listeners. But there is generally a broad grouping of musical genres that have evolved out of the folk traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe. As such, there is no real body of music that can accurately be described as Celtic, but the term has stuck and may refer to both oral-transmitted traditional music and modern recorded music.
Genticorum’s performance is just one concert of the Cityfolk Celtic Series that is mounted each year. Past performances have featured the Music from Ireland and Canada featuring the Richens-Timm Academy of Dance and on December 4, 2012 the dazzling fiddler from Cape Breton, Natalie McMaster, will showcase her work.
Genticorum’s concert will be held at Stivers School for the Arts 1313 E. Fifth Street — Centennial Hall. Reserved single tickets for Genticorum are $20. You can either purchase tickets at the Cityfolk Box Office at 937-496-3863 or visit Cityfolk at 126 N. Main St. Suite 220 from 10a.m. to 3p.m.
Contact DCP freelance writer Khalid Moss at KhalidMoss@DaytonCityPaper.com